Florida's environmental crises affect all of us. I am Clean Water tells the stories of real Floridians who are facing major challenges to their businesses, family lives and health because of the irresponsibility of our elected officials and Big Sugar.
We are always looking to collect more I am Clean Water stories. To share yours with us, please email megan@EvergladesTrust.org.
RYAN ARNST is a Florida fisherman who tells us that “It’s no secret that if you ask any fisherman, they will tell you fishing is worse this year than the last, and that it’s nowhere near as good as it was 10, 20 or 30 years ago.” Ryan was born and raised in Florida and he has seen first-hand the flux of Florida’s environment.
“To me, fishing is a way of connecting with the ecosystem around me in a meaningful and respectful way. And I hope to continue practicing that belief for years to come. That’s why I support Everglades Trust and the Now or Neverglades declaration.”
“I used to take a trip every year down to Marathon Key to go charter fishing with my family,” he says. “We would catch snapper, porgy, grunts and small grouper every time, and had a blast doing it. Every year though, our catch was worse and worse. Despite the declining populations, fishermen continue to overfish.
Any fisherman understands that there’s no such thing as a stand alone species or ecosystem. When one species is dying out, when one ecosystem is being polluted or has too much or too little fresh water flowing into it, there is a ripple effect of consequences. When we think about the problems that the Florida water system is facing, we have to think about solutions that benefit the whole state.
The Florida Keys are 100% dependent on tourism, and there’s no realistic alternative for charter captains and guides. To me, fishing is a way of connecting with the ecosystem around me in a meaningful and respectful way. And I hope to continue practicing that belief for years to come. That’s why I support Everglades Trust and the Now or Neverglades declaration.”
KEITH CARRINGTON is an interior designer and artist who lives in West Palm Beach.
“My design clients need clean water to grow their famously-manicured, towering hedges in Palm Beach,” jokes Keith
And when he’s not painting or designing fabulous spaces from Palm Beach to South Beach, Keith spends every waking hour enjoying Florida’s natural environment and is adamant we must solve this problem. And in a hurry. Designer Carrington is also a proud signer of the Now Or Nevergaldes declaration. We think Keith’s terrific!
MORGAN DENNEY moved to Miami to experience art and culture, and it has not disappointed her. "I love this city. I love the fierceness of the culture, the arts. Miami is wild and bright in the best way." But Morgan hesitates when she thinks about the future.
“This summer I've started to think hard about my future here.”
"Some things are too foundational to life," she says. "Water is one of them. I take my health seriously." While she wants to build a future in the city she loves, she knows her drinking water faces a serious problem unless elected officials step up to protect it. The flow of water south of Lake Okeechobee south provides the drinking water for eight million Floridians. Without a reservoir to store the water before it's cleaned and sent south, life as we know it in South Florida won't always be possible.
TONY AND MISSY SCOVILLE live in Sanibel, in a home that has been in their family for generations. In recent years, they've found that many of the simple pleasures of living in Florida- walking on the beach and fishing, have become all too infrequent because the of algae blooms, dead fish and dead sea grass that accompany the Lake Okeechobee discharges.
“The results are many and none of them are good. Our real estate values have declined; we see businesses dependent on tourism closing, and we see the charter boat captains canceling charters at significant personal cost because the water quality is so bad.”
Tony and Missy clearly understand the science behind the solution. They know we're experiencing a political problem, not a scientific one.
"The politicians need to listen to the voters who elected them and who also provided the solution and funding via Amendment 1 to purchase land in the Everglades Agricultural Area where water from Lake O could be treated, cleaned and released south to replenish the River of Grass, eliminate most discharges through the Caloosahatchee and St. Lucie estuaries, and restore Florida Bay," they told us.
Tony and Missy are proud #NowOrNeverglades declaration signers, and they urge anyone who cares about the future of Florida to do the same.
ADA SHISSLER AND THE DINGHY DAMES know Florida water. They've been paddling their kayaks through the Sanibel Causeway every week for many years, and they remember when the water was so clear you could see the bottom. Today, the Dames describe the water as "the color of dark coffee."
“We see the dead sea grasses, the slime covered pilings and shells, the dead fish, and even lethargic dolphins. We are old enough to recall when these waters were pristine, when you could see the bottom.”
"We are very aware of the devastating changes in the water quality in Pine Island Sound, Roosevelt Channel, all around the islands of Sanibel and Captiva, and even as far south as the 1,000 Islands area near Goodland," said Ada Shissler of the Dinghy Dames. "All these are prime tourist destinations."The Dames want to share their kayak adventures with their families in the years to come.
"We want to see the end of discharges from Lake O which have destroyed our water quality, said Ada. "We want our children and grandchildren to be able to enjoy this unique and beautiful area."
THOMAS CAMPBELL (right) pictured here with his friend James Billie of the Seminole Indian Tribe, has lived in Naples, Florida for most of his life. He's an avid storyteller, and in 1991 he was meeting with Seminole Tribe members to film the preservation of the Smallwood Store in Chokoloskee. During the project, Thomas was struck by the many ways that re-routing the River of Grass had changed life for the Seminole Tribe and for all Floridians forever.
“The flow to the south of the water from Lake Okeechobee, which was ever so slight was now changed forever," said Thomas. "The water, which once flowed so slowly from the lake, and once performed so well in allowing the water to percolate slowly into the ground, naturally cleansing it, and finally becoming the ever renewing natural source of pristine water into the limestone aquifer below was, instead, now being focused into quick running canals and lost to the salty Gulf.”
This year we've experienced a reality that stands in stark opposition to the one Thomas reflects on. There is no slow flowing, natural cleansing. There are billions upon billions of gallons of polluted water discharged down the St. Lucie and Caloosahatchee causing algae blooms, seagrass die offs and fish kills.
ANN AND KENNETH BERAME are residents of Rockford, Illinois who frequently visit South Florida. They're part of Florida's 67 billion dollar tourism industry--the state's most important economic driver. Ann and Kenneth have been to major attractions all around the state, but they always come back to Peanut Island.
“All year we look forward to visiting Florida. From the second we get off the plane, we're in the water. Our favorite is Peanut Island- snorkeling with our friends the barracudas. But this summer when we got to Peanut, it was closed because of algae. I wasn't just worried for us- I was worried for all the creatures we normally swim with.”
Ann especially looks forward to thrilling dives with barracuda, who she affectionately refers to as her fish friends. As their concern grows for their favorite place on earth, it's not just about whether they'll get to dive on their next vacation. "For us, this is a trip," she said. "For the creatures, this is home."
AIDAN NORVELL is a sixth grade student who lives in West Palm Beach. Aidan loves being outside and on the water more than anything else in the world. Once a month, along with his family, Aidan goes down to the waterway and cleans up all the garbage washing on shore. He’s been doing it since he was three years old.
“Being a kid in Florida is the best because we get so much time on the water. I love to boat and fish and swim. I've been learning to sail a Sunfish with my dad for the last two years. This summer was different though because our water was full of algae. I was inside a lot more, where my little sister was. Not much fun. My friends and I want to do something about it.”
When this year's toxic algae bloom arrived on the shores of his community, Aidan took immediate action and collected samples with his dad. He took the samples to Mark Perry, Executive Director of the Florida Oceanographic Society in Stuart, with a very important message – he and his friends would do whatever they could to help.
When our elected officials fail to protect our water, they fail to protect our families. At Everglades Trust, we believe that protecting America's Everglades and Florida's water is the only way to protect the livelihoods of all Floridians. Aidan’s mom and dad are proud of him. We are too!